Today, the Herald & Review endorses Shelith Hansbro, John Phillips Jr. and Rodney Walker for Decatur city council in the Tuesday election.
Each brings unique life experiences to the table. They offer perspectives from segments of our community not being represented adequately in elected city government.
In talking with the seven candidates at our editorial board meetings and hearing them speak at our Herald & Review debates, we were impressed by each in different ways. The three incumbents -- Lisa Gregory and Bill Faber, who are running for new terms, and Dana Ray, who is not -- as well as candidates Marty Watkins and Shavon Francis, deserve our thanks.
Our endorsement of these particular community members reflects both our desire for government transparency and the very strong need for true engagement with those not part of the political process. This is needed on our council.
Walker embodies grassroots community outreach. A former pro basketball player, he's the force behind the Skywalker International Sports Complex, coached varsity basketball at Eisenhower High School and ran SkyBox Sports Connection bar and grill on East Wood Street. He also developed Southside Sundays, which this summer took over Mueller Park with music, food and camaraderie, all through the help of donations and volunteers.
Walker will have a steep learning curve, but he is well-equipped with both passion and an understanding of interacting with government as a business owner.
Phillips will unquestionably bring a jolt of fiscal reality to this council. An auto mechanic and Libertarian Party of Macon County chairman, he uses the right phrases about government spending (there needs to be less of it) and government transparency (there needs to be more of it). He is sharp-elbowed and provocative, and as a result will need to remind himself to be patient as he navigates municipal government.
Hansbro is the programs warden at Taylorville Correctional Center and was at Decatur Correctional Center before that, giving her an up-close look at those impacted by crime as well as how agency budgets work. Her input will be invaluable on several fronts.
Our hope is whomever wins on Tuesday will deliver new perspectives on key issues confronting our community at this critical crossroads, from the stalled neighborhood revitalization effort that once showed so much promise to helping the new city manager, Scot Wrighton, understand his role in working for the taxpayers.
We have been consistent in this straightforward message: Having more voices and broad input in the governing process makes for a better process and a better outcome. Solving issues of economic disparity and the challenges of a shrinking population and tax base is more important than ever, and we need real talk, active listening and honest conversations. As we've said before, we strongly encourage our city leaders to take citizen involvement seriously.
Hansbro, Phillips and Walker are worthy of your support on Election Day.